Private US citizens, like Bloomberg, should not have to fund climate deal

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An ecosystem stretching approximately 1,400 miles long is in danger. Most have never visited this mystical world, and since one cannot see it, one may not even know that the Great Barrier Reef is fighting for its very existence.

The reef is slowly dying due to climate change. This is a change that humans have contributed to, falling asleep at the wheel while the planet and its oceans warm to dangerous extremes.

Three years ago, a mass bleaching event hit the northern half of the reef hard. As oceanic temperatures rise, the corals expel micro-sized algae that normally reside in their tissues for shelter, but symbiotically provide them their food and color. If all of the algae are expelled, the corals slowly starve to death, lose their color and die.

A study released by the journal Nature unearthed a disturbing new discovery: during the summer of 2016, the hottest year on record, a powerful El Niño created a deadly combination of sea temperatures that rose so exponentially within a short period of time that the corals simply cooked to death rather than starved.

This rapid degeneration does not allow the corals to naturally regenerate over time. If the oceans continue to experience extreme climate like that in 2016, the entire reef will perish.

There is a solution to the issue: stop warming up the oceans. The Paris climate accord was a step in the right direction. The accord called for global temperatures to not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, their pre-industrialization averages. The current member states’ actual commitments place their pace closer to 3.4 degrees of warming.

In another study released by Nature Climate Change, researchers found that if global temperatures rose only the desired 1.5 degrees — which would right now require every country to quit emitting carbon dioxide by 2021 — the temperatures that strangled the reef in 2016 would still occur every two out of three years. If there is even a 2-degree Celsius rise, there is an 87 percent chance that the oceans will annually exceed their 2016 temperatures.

And yet, the United States’ commitments to the accords it used to be part of were just paid for on Earth Day, April 22, by Michael Bloomberg. The former mayor and private billionaire philanthropist paid the $4.5 million annual payment this time, and his charities donated $15 million last year.

We should commend private individuals and particular states within the nation that have picked up the current administration’s slack, but there is a larger, underlying problem: the willingness of the American public to either gleefully or tactically support the nation’s breach of its promises to the international community.

If the American people elect a climate-skeptical government into office and allow it to flaunt international commitments regarding the deal while also backing out of the said deal, then other countries in the agreement have no option but to reassess their inclusivity.

So far, all of the member states have struck a tone of unity, hoping to shame the isolated American decision to leave the Paris climate accords. However, as the administration forges ahead, private citizens are forced to cover the country’s missed payments while the American public remains silent — and this inaction speaks volumes.

Countries like India, whose current economy will be negatively affected by its Paris commitments, joined the agreement mainly because wealthier, already industrialized countries  — like the United States — agreed that they would make payments to India to offset some of its economic loses.

The Paris agreement was to be maintained by American leadership. However, as the government  spins its wheels formulating a coherent climate policy, the Great Barrier Reef, and the entire planet Earth, will keep withering away.